Prayer is a Wall of Faith

“The Prayer of Jesus (St John Passion – 3)” (1990) by Jacek Andrzej Rossakiewicz (b.1956), oil on canvas.

I came across this reminder from Tertullian (160-225AD) in part three of his writings in the Anti Nicene Fathers labeled Ethical. Here Tertllian speaks of the power of prayer comparing the objects of prayer in the Old World, or Hebrew Bible with the objects of prayer in the present. At first glance it seems like the objects prayer for of old– “used to free from fires, and from beasts, and from famine” appear more fantastic than objects prayed for in the present. However Tertullian rejects this notion as he asserts,

Christ has willed that it [prayer] be operative for no evil: He had conferred on it all its virtue in the cause of good. And so it knows nothing save how to recall the souls of the departed from the very path of death, to transform the weak, to restore the sick, to purge the possessed, to open prison-bars, to loose the bonds of the innocent.

Objects prayed for today may look different from the Old World, but in many ways the objects remain the same:

Likewise it washes away faults, repels temptations, extinguishes persecutions, consoles the faint-spirited, cheers the high-spirited, escorts travellers, appeases waves, makes robbers stand aghast, nourishes the poor, governs the rich, upraises the fallen, arrests the falling, confirms the standing.

Also, prayer reflects our faith in God and work power to work in our world. Tertullian reminds us,

Prayer is the wall of faith: her arms and missiles against the foe who keeps watch over us on all sides. And, so never walk we unarmed. By day, be we mindful of Station; by night, of vigil. Under the arms of prayer guard we the standard of our General; await we in prayer the angel’s trump. The angels, likewise, all pray; every creature prays; cattle and wild beasts pray and bend their knees; and when they issue from their layers and lairs, they look up heavenward with no idle mouth, making their breath vibrate after their own manner. Nay, the birds too, rising out of the nest, upraise themselves heavenward, and, instead of hands, expand the cross of their wings, and say somewhat to seem like prayer. What more then, touching the office of prayer? Even the Lord Himself prayed; to whom be honour and virtue unto the ages of the ages![1]

Many times we don’t pray as we ought thinking we can handle our own issues. Maybe this reflects our lack of faith in God to handle our issues for us or perhaps our pride in resting upon our own efforts instead resting in God provisional care. In either case, Tertullian provides a timely reminder of the power of prayer in the face of our efforts toward self-sufficiency.

[1] Tertullian, “On Prayer”, trans. S. Thelwall, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume III: Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian ( ed. Alexander Roberts et al.;Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 690-91.


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